Podcast discusses Factoring Finances while Building College Lists, Figuring out College ROI, and the Impact of Applying for Financial Aid on Admissions."> IvyAchievement’s Financial Guide"> Podcast | Ben-Stern-of-IvyAchievement-Selecting-Colleges-with-Finances-in-Mind-e18o8nh


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Episode Notes

Episode Title: Ben Stern of IvyAchievement: Selecting Colleges with Finances in Mind.

Almost half the college applicants cite College cost as a huge factor in college selection. In this Podcast, Ben Stern of IvyAchievement shares his expertise in Factoring Finances while Building College Lists, Figuring out College ROI, and the Impact of Applying for Financial Aid on Admissions.

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Introduction to Ben Stern [0:51]
  • College Selection with Finances in Mind [1:34]
  • College ROI [3:54]
  • Applying for Fin Aid Hurts Admissions Chances [11:08]

Our Guests: 

Memorable Quote: “It's absolutely pay to play. The more money you have, the better you'll do with the admissions process.” Ben Stern.

Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.

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Episode Transcript

Transcript of the episode’s audio.

Ben Stern  0:15  

is one thing that your listeners will take away today is that colleges are not charities, colleges are businesses. Colleges. Now they call it financial aid. They call it scholarships. They are not, they're not scholarship organizations. They're not financially, they're not financial institutions that are, that are looking to help students, or charities looking to help families. They are businesses that are selling products.

Venkat  0:51  [Introduction to  Ben Stern]

That is Ben Stern of IvyAchievement, a college counseling firm that focuses on international students applying to US Colleges.

Hello, I am your host, Venkat Raman.

In this Podcast, Ben answers key questions around College Selection & Finances.

To that end, we will discuss the following:

  • Factoring Finances while Building College Lists
  • How to Figure College ROI?
  • College Acceptance Chances When you Apply for Financial Aid


Venkat Raman  1:31

Big Questions!

Let’s get started with Ben!

Venkat Raman  1:34  [College Selection with Finances in Mind]

How should students and parents build their college lists with finances in mind, i.e., college cost, financial aid, scholarships?

Ben Stern  1:46  

Sure. So finances is always a primary consideration. In selecting colleges, it's always the first thing that I that I ask families. And I just did, I just had a session where we selected a college list for a student to apply to this year, sort of a longer list we had about 35 colleges, he'll shorten it to probably about 20 to 25. But that is always a primary factor.

For some for some families are very privileged and don't have to worry about it. But even even very, very wealthy families, very families with large budgets, they are still cost conscious, they still want to have a good investment they don't want to have, they don't want to waste their money, they didn't get to be that successful by wasting their money. Right.

So they're not they're generally they don't want to have to spend lavishly on something that's not going to get a good return on investment. And that's not going to give them a good value.

So most families do want to have as some sort of sense of value.  There are some families that don't really care, they just want to send their their kids to the US and in anywhere in the US are great for them. But most families are not like that they want to leave, they want to have certain kinds of value.

Ben Stern  2:57  

So we try to help them identify where that value is going to be. And we try to understand what their budget is what sort of schools they are, have an idea of what would be worth it to them.

We try to explain what schools are going to be what they're trying to get out of what we're trying to get out of their investment:

  • Is [it] a job and
  • a monetary return on investment, what they're looking for.
  • Are is it in some sort of prestige or label that they're looking to purchase that sort of status?
  • Are they looking for a good safe place to live?
  • Or looking for the kind of network they can develop?

What are they looking for, in terms of what, what did they get value from and we, we help students identify students and families identify the best schools that will give them the best return on their investment.

Venkat Raman  3:54  [College ROI]

Ok, then that begs the question - What would be a good way for families to figure out the College Return on Investment? How would they go about doing that?

Ben Stern  4:06  


So one of the main things that we we look at is sort of what sort of salaries our our graduates going to be earning. What can they what they be earning, and they can earn some money during during college, it's usually not going to be a lot although we do have students who will earn $30,000 Over the summer, interning in a place like Microsoft or Google or hedge funds, we have several students who are earning that kind of money and already being able to pay back any kind of loans. And that's, that's something that's very important.

And one of the one of the things that I wanted things that I did, because there was nothing available, that really that really gave us a complete picture of the the hiring prospects out of out of college searches for specifically computer science, it's very, very popular, popular major, and have the field to go into.

So I, I looked at

  • which schools have the best representation among the top employers, the top paying employers in Computer Science, so the Facebook, and the Amazon and Microsoft and the Google and the Apple and the Dropbox,
  • and I looked at data from LinkedIn from, from a place called payscale.com, from national from university from, from US government,
  • and to try to determine what, which schools would give the best return on investment.

Which schools have the best representation in the, in the job market. And taking taking a look at what the cost is, and not necessarily quantifying the return, but at least looking at relatively, which are, which are better returns.

Ben Stern  6:04  

So it's hard to say, Okay, you're, you're going to get, you know, five, you know, $5 million in, you know, in salary over the course of, you know, over the course of 15 years. You know that we're gonna we're gonna quantify that way.

But we can say, you know, what, these two schools, the, you know, Penn State University, and Georgia Tech might have similar outcomes. And Georgia Tech costs $5,000, less, maybe you should choose Georgia Tech, or, you know, maybe, you know, yourself Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt, or University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers have similar similar outcomes, but Rutgers cost $20,000, less, maybe Rutgers is a better is a better investment than then you received Pennsylvania. So we, we at least want to try to see relatively how schools performed to each other, and help help parents and families make that make that choice, In that context.

Venkat Raman  7:07  

That's one. Is there anything else that you consider other than internships and summer jobs type of thing?

Ben Stern  7:14  

Sure, it's hard, it's hard to quantify a lot of things. I mean, when I, I went to my, my 10 year college reunion a few years ago, and there was a panel discussion with people who had entrepreneurs from Columbia University at different stages. So one, one had just started a company that she had been working on a technology in the lab, and they started a private company. Another one had just raised a few, I think, four or $5 million of the series a funding. And from an investor and another one had just sold her company to Apple for $20 million. And there was a panel discussion. And they were all asked, and they all that takes a lot of work. But they were all asked, at the beginning, when you were starting out, how did you find your seed capital? How do you find your seed money, and they said, that wasn't a challenge. That was easy. Columbia had helped them. Columbia had helped them where they had classmate or they have friends.

When you go to a place like come to Columbia University, when you go to a place like Yale, when you go to places like MIT, there are people around who want to help you with good ideas. And that kind of that kind of initial investment is not hard to get. You It's not everybody's going to go to find something on their first try. But none of them said, Oh, it's a real challenge to find that initial seed money. So that's, that's the kind of, you can't really quantify that. But that that kind of when you're that kind of environment. That's what you're buying into. When you're when you are going to to an elite college.

Venkat Raman  8:52  

I think what you're really saying is fantastic. Because as you sit down with your, with your students and their parents, and you are figuring this out, the arguments you're making in favor of picking certain colleges to apply to are really based on giving them a feel for what, what are the possibilities there?

And what are some discrete ways in this, in which this can work out? Right? Not that there's never any guarantees, obviously, but these are, this is why you ought to make a choice. It's a more educated guess rather than sort of just shooting in the dark.

Ben Stern  9:28  

Absolutely. And there are great schools that can lead to that have a good chance of leading to great jobs over a higher ranked and more prestigious, or seemingly more prestigious schools. That will be will be Better investments for most families.

So places like Arizona State University, North Carolina State University, Penn State, Wisconsin Madison, they are less expensive than than Cornell and Penn and Harvard, but they are they can in some places.

In some cases of better job placement, yeah, if you're looking for they're looking for jobs, they're focused on jobs, or they're not really thinking about entrepreneurship and will still offer the sort of mid career flexibility with large alumni networks.

In Wisconsin, Madison is a great as a great value I've, I've been I've I've actually a friend of weather for graduate school, but it's, it's one of those places, it's right usually around the top 50. And in terms of undergraduate undergraduate college experience ranking in the US News. And it's less expensive than Ivy League, it's less expensive than some of its other public school competitors, like, like Berkeley or, or using Michigan.

So it's less expensive than those schools, but offers still a very, very high quality of education and in good job placement. So it's one of those schools where if a family maybe has a budget of 50, to $60,000, but not 70 to 80,000, or $90,000, they may want to consider for for a good investment.

Venkat Raman  11:08  [Applying for Fin Aid Hurts Admissions Chances]

There's one question when I don't know if this is a myth or this is real, but there's always this talk about if you apply for financial aid, then you're hurting your chances of getting accepted by a college. Is that true?

Ben Stern  11:22  

No Absolutely. It's not at all a rumor, it's absolutely true. If you're applying for a need based financial aid, if you apply for a merit scholarship in college, it will not hurt your chances. And in fact, it can increase your chances because it demonstrates elevate interest in that college and, and special dedication to apply there.

But if you apply for merit based aid, I'm sorry, if you apply for a need based financial aid, that will automatically reduce your chances of getting in they you will be students who apply for international students who apply for financial aid.

And in many, many places, all students who apply for financial aid, need based financial aid international or not, international or otherwise, are placed into a separate, separate category, and considered on a on a special case by case basis.

So colleges, colleges or not one important thing to remember, is a really important rule of thumb, if there's, there's one thing that your listeners will take away today is that colleges are not charities, colleges are businesses, colleges, now they call it financial aid. They call it a scholarship, they are not they are not scholarship organizations. They're not financially, they're not financial institutions that are, that are looking to help students are charities that are looking to help families. They are businesses that are selling products.

And they are or they're selling services, probably whatever you want to if you want to couch it as a service product, they give discounts, their discounts. Now, if they could, they would sell everything at full price. Right. But in order to get more students in the door, they offer certain discounts.

So if you are asking for a discount, you are you're you're saying I can if you can say I can I can't afford to pay your full price, you automatically, automatically get moved to the back of the line. Okay? Absolutely. The fact that the more money you need, the more money you need. The, The higher the number, the less you can pay, the lower priority you're going to do. Absolutely, there's a correlation with. The higher the more the more money you need, the more money the less, the less likely to give you are less likely to admit you.

Now there are some exceptions. One are schools that are so called Need blind, meaning that they admit without regard to financial aid, and then they fill in the budget. Now, it's a little bit of a misnomer. The only schools that are truly truly need blind are Harvard and MIT.

Ben Stern  13:57  

And Harvard is need blind I can tell you 100% Is need blind.

Because you can apply students family could apply for financial aid after the student is admitted to Harvard. We had a student last year. We actually had, they actually had twins, a boy and a girl. The girl got admitted to Harvard. They were applying without financial aid because they had they had some savings and they were playing without financial aid. But the boy got admitted to the University of Wisconsin Madison. And the girl got admitted to Harvard University. And it would have been a lot of money to send basically family did not have enough money to send both kids to college. Right? They had money send one of the kids to college, but not both kids to college.

But she got into Harvard University. We had her apply for financial aid after she got into Harvard. And they offered her nearly a full scholarship. They have a cost of attendance of about $4,000 per year at Harvard. Awesome. So Harvard, Harvard accepts applications for financial aid after admission. Now, other schools do not do that. It'd be MIT Does but I don't believe Yale and Princeton do the same and Princeton even though their need blind, they still, before they send out their final decision, they see what the financial aid package is.

Ben Stern  15:13  

So, I encourage you, if families need financial aid to absolutely need financial aid to pay for college, there's no reason not to. But how much you know how, you know how to better list your assets, and you know, what sort of income statements and all that that's a that's a that's a different, you know, a different conversation, it's gets into more of the nitty gritty of the financial aid applications. But I encourage families who absolutely need it, who can't afford to go to college, can't afford to send their kids to college without financial aid to apply for financial aid. But if you're on the fence, then it's definitely worth worth it to have a discussion. It's certainly worth it to have a discussion about which schools to apply for financial aid, and which not to even if they call themselves need the blind versity to where need blind meaning they don't take into account the amount of financial aid the student is applying for when making the admissions decision.

Venkat Raman  16:09  

That's that's a thank you for clarifying that. I think that's, that's a great point.

Ben Stern  16:14  

It's absolutely pay to play. If you, the more money you have, the better you'll do with the admissions process.


Venkat Raman  16:26

Hi again!

Hope you found the discussion on College Finances with Ben Stern useful.

To Recap, We covered:

  • Factoring Finances while Building College Lists
  • How to Figure College ROI?
  • College Acceptance Chances When Applying for Financial Aid

Thank you so much for listening to this podcast.

Transcripts for this podcast and previous podcasts are on almamatters.io forward slash podcasts [almamatters.io/podcasts].

To stay connected with us, Subscribe to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify or visit anchor.fm forward slash almamatters [anchor.fm/almamatters] to check us out.

Till we meet again, take care and be safe.

Thank you!

Summary Keywords

College Podcast, US Colleges, International Students, College Admissions, College Applications, Financial Aid, FAFSA, Merit-based Aid, Need-based Aid, Financial Aid Process, Financial Aid Resources, IvyAchievement’s Financial Guide

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